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Hunter v. Nhcash.Com, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

September 12, 2017

TINA HUNTER, Plaintiff,
v.
NHCASH.COM, LLC Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION (GRANTING LTD FINANCIAL SERVICES, L.P.'S MOTION TO DISMISS)

          Henry E. Hudson United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant LTD Financial Services, L.P.'s ("Defendant") Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(3) and the doctrine of forum non conveniens, filed on July 13, 2017. (ECF No. 16.) Defendant has been afforded the opportunity to reply to Plaintiffs Opposition to the Motion (ECF No. 30), but has not done so. Accordingly, the matter is ripe for disposition. The Court will dispense with oral argument because the facts and legal contentions are adequately presented in the materials presently before the Court and argument would not aid in the decisional process. E.D. Va. Local Civ. R. 7(J). For the reasons discussed herein, Defendant's Motion will be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Tina Hunter, Stephen Pike, Dawn Mays-Johnson, Julie Johnson, and Dianne Turner (collectively, "Plaintiffs") filed the instant Class Action Complaint ("Complaint") alleging, inter alia, that Defendant violated certain provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 etseq. (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiffs generally allege that Defendant, a debt-collection agency, worked systematically to collect or attempt to collect illegal loans.[1] (Compl. ¶¶ 79-82.) Defendant allegedly sent Plaintiff Johnson a dunning letter on or around September 28, 2016, in an attempt to collect on Johnson's debt. (Id. ¶ 85.) The letter identified Johnson's debt as $1, 061.59 and indicated that the communication was "an attempt to collect a debt and any information obtained will be used for that purpose." (Id. ¶¶ 86, 88.) Johnson received "additional correspondence" from Defendant, including another collection letter dated October 6, 2016. (Id. ¶ 89.) Plaintiff Turner also received a collection letter from Defendant. (Id. ¶ 91.) Upon information and belief, Plaintiffs assert that Defendant used form letters in its debt collection efforts. (Id. ¶ 92.)

         Based on these collection practices, Plaintiffs allege that Defendant violated the FDCPA by: (1) sending letters containing validation notices that "falsely" stated that Plaintiffs owed money for an usurious-and therefore illegal-debt, in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1692g(a)(1); (2) sending letters that misstated the legal status of Plaintiffs' debts, i.e., that the debts were legal and enforceable, in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1692e; and (3) attempting to and actually collecting "debts that were void and unenforceable under Virginia law, " in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1692f. (Id. ¶¶ 132, 141, 150.) The Complaint asserts that Plaintiffs accordingly seek actual damages, statutory damages, and reasonable attorney's fees and costs. (Id. ¶¶ 133, 142, 151.)

         In the instant Motion, Defendant seeks dismissal of Plaintiffs' FDCPA claims (Counts IV, V, and VI of the Complaint) on two separate grounds. First, Defendant incorporates the arguments set forth in the Brief in Support of NHCash Defendants' Motion to Dismiss[2] (ECF No. 15) to assert that the Agreements preclude Plaintiffs from filing suit in this Court, based on the forum selection and arbitration provisions contained therein. (Br. Supp. Mot. Dismiss 1 n.l, 3-6, ECF No. 17.) Second, Defendants argue that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' FDCPA claims because "Plaintiffs have failed to assert a concrete injury necessary to give them standing in this case." (Id. at 9.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS [3]

         A. 12(b)(1)

         A motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). As recognized by the Fourth Circuit, "[t]here are two critically different ways in which to present a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction" under Rule 12(b)(1). Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982). First, a defendant may challenge jurisdiction facially and "contend 'that a complaint simply fails to allege facts upon which subject matter jurisdiction can be based.'" Kerns v. United States, 585 F.3d 187, 192 (4th Cir. 2009) (quoting Bain, 697 F.2d at 1219). "In that event, all the facts alleged in the complaint are assumed to be true and the plaintiff, in effect, is afforded the same procedural protection as he would receive under a Rule 12(b)(6) consideration." Bain, 697 F.2d at 1219.

         Alternatively, a defendant may challenge jurisdiction factually and "contend ... 'that the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint [are] not true.'" Kerns, 585 F.3d at 192 (alteration in original) (quoting Bain, 697 F.2d at 1219). When-and only when-a defendant takes this latter position, "'[a] trial court may ... go beyond the allegations of the complaint and in an evidentiary hearing determine if there are facts to support the jurisdictional allegations, ' without converting the motion to a summary judgment proceeding." Id. (quoting Bain, 697 F.2d at 1219).

         In this case, the Court understands Defendant to be bringing a facial challenge to standing. Accordingly, the Court's analysis is confined to the facts as pled in the Complaint.

         B. Standing

         The Supreme Court has established that the "irreducible constitutional minimum" of standing includes three elements: (1) an injury-in-fact; (2) a causal connection between the injury and the alleged misconduct; and (3) a likelihood that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992) (citations omitted). "Where, as here, a case is at the pleading stage, the plaintiff must 'clearly ... allege facts demonstrating' each element." Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S.Ct. 1540, 1547 (2016) (as revised May 24, 2016) (quoting Worth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 518(1975)).

         In order to show injury-in-fact at the pleading stage, a plaintiff must allege '"an invasion of a legally protected interest' that is 'concrete and particularized' and 'actual and imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical.'" Id. at 1548 (quoting Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560). To satisfy the concreteness requirement, a plaintiff must allege an injury-either tangible or intangible-that actually exists. Id. at 1548-49. The Supreme Court has made clear that "Article III standing requires a concrete injury even in the context of a statutory violation." Id. at 1549. However, in certain limited circumstances the statutory violation ...


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